CAIRO – Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi who was ousted by the military in 2013 after a year in office, collapsed in court while on trial Monday and died, state TV and his family said.
The 67-year-old Morsi had just addressed the court, speaking from the glass cage he is kept in during sessions and warning that he had “many secrets” he could reveal, a judicial official said.
FILE – In this May 8, 2014 file photo, Egypt’s ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi sits in a defendant cage in the Police Academy courthouse in Cairo, Egypt. On Monday June 17, 2019, Egypt’s state TV said the country’s ousted President Mohammed Morsi, 67, collapsed during a court session and died. It said it occurred while he was attending a court trial on espionage charges. Morsi, who hailed from Egypt’s largest Islamist group, the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, was elected president in 2012 in the country’s first free elections following the ouster the year before of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. (AP Photo/Tarek el-Gabbas, File)
A few minutes afterward, he collapsed in the cage, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.
In his final comments, he continued to insist he was Egypt’s legitimate president, demanding a special tribunal, one of his defense lawyers, Kamel Madour told the Associated Press.
State TV said Morsi died before he could be taken to the hospital.
Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood accused the government of “assassinating” him through years of poor prison conditions.
In a statement, the group demanded an international investigation into Morsi’s death and called on Egyptians to protest outside Egypt’s embassy across the world.
Morsi, who was known to have diabetes, had been imprisoned since his 2013 ouster, often in solitary confinement and barred from visitors — his family was allowed to visit only three times during that time.
Egypt’s chief prosecutor said Morsi’s body would be examined to determine the cause of his death.
It was a dramatic end for a figure who was central in the twists and turns taken by Egypt since its “revolution” — from the pro-democracy uprising that in 2011 ousted the country’s longtime authoritarian leader, Hosni Mubarak, through controversial Islamist rule and now back to a tight grip under the domination of military men.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most powerful Islamist group, won the elections held after Mubarak’s fall, considered the first free votes the country had seen.
First, they gained a majority in parliament, then Morsi squeaked to victory in presidential elections held in 2012, becoming the first civilian to hold the office.
Critics accused the Brotherhood of using violence against opponents and seeking to monopolize power and Islamize the state.
Massive protests grew against their rule, until the military — led by then-Defense Minister, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi — ousted Morsi in July 2013, dissolved parliament and eventually banned the Brotherhood as a “terrorist group.”
El-Sissi was elected president and re-elected in 2018 in votes human rights groups sharply criticized as undemocratic.
He has waged a ferocious crackdown that crushed the Brotherhood but also almost all other dissent, arresting tens of thousands, banning protests and silencing most criticism in the media.
Since his ouster, Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders have been put on multiple and lengthy trials.
Morsi was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of ordering Brotherhood members to break up a protest against him, resulting in deaths.
Multiple cases are still pending. Monday’s session was part of a retrial, held next to Cairo’s Tora Prison, on charges of espionage with the Palestinian Hamas militant group. /gsg
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